In my last mock draft, I had Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State) going to the Seahawks. He’s a sideline-to-sideline linebacker who will clock a time in the 4.4′s or 4.5′s at the combine. And I think he’s ideal for the teams WILL position.
This isn’t taking anything away from Malcolm Smith, who might be on his way to winning the gig on a permanent basis. He’s looked very accomplished in two starts so far and he also has 4.4 speed and great familiarity with the system. He’s one of the few ex-USC guys to be drafted by Pete Carroll and clearly they believe he has a future on the team. His touchdown on special teams against Arizona was just reward for his efforts spelling the injured Leroy Hill.
However, unless he keeps the job for the rest of the year and continues to shine (Hill could return against Buffalo), I think we have to look at this position as an area where the team might spend an early draft pick next April.
I’m not afraid to admit I’m still learning what Carroll’s team is trying to do on both sides of the ball. I’ve looked closer than ever before this year, because I didn’t like how we handled the draft last season. We spent a lot of time trying to piece a pass rusher into the existing defense – and we were right to focus on that position as it turns out. However, we were looking at turning a DE or rush LB into a SAM and moving K.J. Wright inside. And that was clearly never the idea. In hindsight it makes perfect sense that they actually looked to replace Raheem Brock. We were maybe distracted by the specialist nature of that role, yet there was a stand-out ‘specialist’ available in the 2012 draft. If we’d worked this out last season, we might’ve been able to spend more time on Bruce Irvin after pumping his tires at the start of the year.
I need to highlight and learn from mistakes to make this a better blog. That was a big one.
I’ve watched the defense and attempted to understand the 4-3 under concepts a little better this year. It’s why I think upgrading the three technique is a big priority. It’s why I think they can get better at the WILL too. Alan Branch ticks two of the boxes required for his role at the three – he eats space, he can take on interior lineman and he plays well against the run. However, he doesn’t offer much penetration or pass rush. Until the Seahawks get pressure inside at that position, their base defense will struggle to have an impact when they only rush four. Which is most of the time.
Greater pressure from the three technique and therefore an improved overall pass rush ultimately means you can keep the linebackers in playmaking positions and you’ll get more out of the LEO concept. Red Bryant’s role in the team is still underrated. The Seahawks need size at the five technique to compensate for doubling up on the opposite side. A lot of the time Bryant has to take on two blockers (right guard/tackle). The fact the Seahawks aren’t dominated on the right side when the opposition runs the ball is credit to Bryant. In fact, teams try and avoid him. Brandon Mebane plays over the center. This puts you in a position to orchestrate 1v1 match-ups for the three and the LEO. It should be very hard to defend on that side, but you need that interior push to collapse the pocket. That’s when the speed off the edge will hurt an offense. Finding someone to collapse the pocket should be a priority for this team. If Miami’s Randy Starks reaches free agency and the price is affordable, he would be ideal for this role.
The Seahawks have upgraded two of the three linebacker positions to the scheme Carroll wants to run. K.J. Wright helps set the edge as the SAM, keeps contain and he can drop. Bobby Wagner is already showing just how adept he is to reading situations, flowing to the football and making plays. It’s no surprise that as the season’s progressed, he’s started to make more impact plays.
Carroll inherited Leroy Hill and he’s done a good job in the last three years. It’s easy to forget he was #2 for sacks last season – a testament to the lack of pass rush given he wasn’t asked to do a lot of rushing. He’s a good enough athlete to manage the WILL in this scheme but he’s not quite as explosive these days. There have been a few times when he’s located the ball and been first to make a key play. Ultimately though, it’s an area where the Seahawks can get faster with greater impact.
This is where Brown comes into play.
The video above shows a game from 2011 when Kansas State beat Robert Griffin III’s Baylor in the Big-12. By now you’re aware of RGIII elusive nature and his athleticism. I’d recommend watching the video to see how Brown matches up.
Kansas State’s defense has some similarities to Seattle’s. They have a lot of 4-3 under looks with a front four, a SAM at the LOS and two inside linebackers. Brown is the heart of the defense and appears to make a lot of calls. Bobby Wagner has nailed the MIKE position with his play this year, but it wouldn’t be much of an ask to switch Brown to the WILL. He’s got the speed. He’s got the field IQ. And he reacts quickly to swarm to the ball carrier.
Seattle’s defense isn’t asking the MIKE or WILL to rush the passer. They aren’t asking much of the SAM in that sense either. They want to create pressure with four rushers more often than not. My theory is it’s part of Pete Carroll’s determination to create turnovers. Whenever you can press with just four lineman, you’re going to have success. You’ve got more guys in coverage and your linebackers can read the situation, whether it’s reaching for a tipped pass, undercutting a route, reading a quarterback’s eyes or blowing up a run.
As much as I like Alec Ogletree’s athleticism and upside, Brown may be an equally good fit for this scheme. As a pure roamer, he’s top-notch. He’s busier, reading a play every second of the way and using instinct. He cuts through traffic well, avoiding blocks and closing quickly. For a guy who’s only 6-0 and around 225-230lbs, he takes on blockers well against the run. And like Ogletree, he’s got that sheer speed to run from sideline-to-sideline to make a play.
The Seahawks have had issues in some games defending third down. Brown can sniff out underneath routes by tracking running backs, but he’s also very good at floating at the second level and then reacting. Seattle has taken Leroy Hill off the field on a lot of third downs to play nickel, but with Brown on the roster I’d be tempted to keep him in either in a base look or instead of K.J. Wright. He’d be that much of an asset.
He does have some issues. At his size he’ll get engulfed sometimes against bigger lineman. You have to expect that. But then the Seahawks aren’t asking their linebackers to get too involved at the LOS. Can he cover a big tight end? We’ll see about that. He can get overly aggressive and make slight errors (missed tackles, overshooting his angle). There are times when – like a lot of college defenders these days – he goes for the glancing blow rather than the wrap-up tackle. Apart from that, I don’t see much to complain about.
In fact the biggest concern I have has nothing to do with on-the-field tape. It’s his shy nature. His back-story is fairly interesting. He started his college career at Miami as a big-time recruit. All the top schools wanted him, including Pete Carroll, Ken Norton Jr and USC. Carroll apparently told a representative of the Brown family that he was the best linebacker “he’d seen in seven years.” Brown chose the ‘Canes, seemingly due to their reputation as Linebacker-U. It never worked out, he struggled on the field and was on the brink of being labelled a bust.
Yet most of all, it seems being away from his family was the hardest obstacle to manoeuvre. They’re a close unit. His parents lost their first child before the age of 2. Brown and his brother Bryce (now a starting running back in Philadelphia) were seen as ‘miracles’. So much so, the elder brother was named after his father. Arthur Brown Junior. That’s his full name. Yet it took until his senior year to raise the possibility of having ‘Jr’ added to his jersey at Kansas State.
That made me so happy,” Brown said. “I have always wanted to play with my full name on my jersey. It’s a great way to honor my father and my whole family. But, for whatever reason, I never asked. I was afraid they would say no. I guess I just feel at home here. It turned out to be a really simple thing.”
A family man. But unusually lacking in confidence for such a talented athlete.
The desire to be closer to home certainly factored into Brown’s transfer to K-State.
“Coming out of high school I really didn’t know the value of family and staying connected to your life support,’’ Brown said. “Just those two years away helped me develop an appreciation for my family.’’
Nobody will mark this down as a major negative in terms of his character. However, I am a little concerned that being so far away from his family could be an issue. Seattle is a long way away. Both he and brother Bryce transferred from colleges (Miami/Tennessee) to move ‘back home’ and join Kansas State. Being able to adapt, remain focused and perform to the best of your abilities is crucial. Will Brown get homesick? It’s not something we can get enough information on to call a negative. But it is something I’d be looking into as a member of a personal department.
Pete Carroll will already know a lot about this guy, an edge he’s been able to exploit with a few players coming into the league already. And he may already know just how much of an issue this is (or isn’t). But I wanted to note it nonetheless. Having played at Kansas State, there aren’t many places further away than Seattle.
Assuming this isn’t a problem, Brown could be a tremendous addition to this defense. Some teams will be put off by his size. Not a lot of other blogs or pundits are talking about him as a first or even a second round pick. Yet we know Pete Carroll doesn’t care much for what other people think. He liked this guy coming into the college ranks. He might be checking him out again in the off-season and he could be on this teams radar.